Everett Man Will Take His Do-it-Yourself Ethic to The Grave
Everret, Washington – In this crummy economy, folks dig deep to find ways to save money.
Phillip Thompson of Everett is no exception.
He built his own coffin.
?You don?t realize what the cost of a funeral could be,? said Thompson, 77. ?This will save money for my wife.?
In fact, Thompson has the whole funeral mapped out for cost savings. Not that he?s planning on going soon, he said.
Wife Barbara Thompson will have a few steps to follow to stay in line with state law in case he dies at home? which is where he hopes the end will come.
First she?ll notify the county medical examiner and get a death certificate and burial permit at the Snohomish Health District.
When the paperwork is done, she?ll need help loading his body into the casket, getting the coffin on the back of a rental truck, and taking her husband to Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.
As a Navy veteran, Thompson?s burial is free at the Kent cemetery. A Veteran?s Service Organization Honor Guard Association is on call around the clock to serve at funerals. It?s made up of folks from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Elks Club and other organizations, said Jim Trimbo, cemetery director.
Trimbo has seen homemade coffins. He said they are required to have handles and be sturdy enough to carry the weight of the individual?s remains.
About the bodies, ?we don?t store them or handle them,? he said. ?Someone has to literally load him into the casket and bring him here with a death certificate.?
Thompson carefully followed build-your-coffin guidelines supplied by the cemetery. He also referred to a Snohomish Health District handout called ?Funeral Arrangements When A Funeral Director Is Not Used.?
He built the coffin from plywood he bought at a hardware store. He told them why he was buying the wood. ?They looked at me like I was crazy,? Thompson said.
He took the casket apart for storage. He had some extra pillows and a mattress pad for the liner. He tacked a U.S. Navy poster at the foot.
?The casket will be sealed with glue and screws,? Thompson said.
It can be reassembled in 45 minutes.
Most private cemeteries accept homemade caskets, said Dale Amundsen with Evergreen Washelli funeral home in Bothell. The coffin has to meet fairly-standard specifications for the cemetery, he said.
?We have had woodsmiths build their own coffins ? often years in advance ? for their own eventual occupancy and burial,? Amundsen said. ?We?ve also had them crafted by family members and friends, either before or after the death.?
Sometimes loved-ones decorate the casket, he said, with paintings or farewell messages.
Discussing logistics, Thompson figured his body would go to the county medical examiner?s office after he died at home.
But that probably won?t be the case.
Carolyn Sanden, deputy director of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner?s Office, said if it?s a natural death, they won?t take jurisdiction.
?We will release the body for private disposition,? Sanden said. ?We don?t automatically pick up the body of a deceased person.?
It?s all regulated by state law.
Deputy State Registrar Philip Freeman said for instance, if Thompson dies at home, his wife can?t keep his body in the garage for a long period of time while funeral arrangements are settled.
?You don?t get a 72-hour window,? Freeman said. ?A family acting as a funeral home is supposed to dispose or refrigerate or embalm.?
Thompson is adamant about not being embalmed. He has filled out his part of the death certificate application. There is a handout at the Health District he referred to called ?Process for Completing a Death Certificate.?
Born in Pennsylvania, Thompson?s mother died when he was 14 months old. His father, a real cowboy, was hard to corral, his son said. Thompson lived with his grandparents for several years before settling in California with his dad.
Thompson served on a supply ship in the Korean War. The VFW member left the Navy, worked for the railroad, then rejoined the Navy for four years.
Everett was booming with construction and he landed a job at Weyerhaeuser where he spent 25 years as a welder.
He met his wife in Everett. They combined their children and married 26 years ago.
Her husband isn?t a gloomy person, Barbara Thompson said. He?s just practical and thoughtful. She said she appreciated the idea of her husband building his own coffin, but isn?t sure she wants him to build one for her.
?It was kind of creepy to see him in it,? she said.
Her husband said he didn?t have any morbid feelings during construction.
?It?s a natural way,? he said.
I honestly can’t see how this is helping this guys wife out one bit. Yes, she will have a few extra dollars when he is gone, but come on, is that really worth having to care for your husbands dead body? It is one thing to deal with the fact he died in the house you now live in, then you have to call a medical examiner, reassemble the casket, put him in the casket, get someone to help you load the body and casket to take to the cemetery, carry the body to the grave, and somehow find closure in the whole process while trying to grieve.
I think some people under estimate the whole process. How can you possibly do all the things this lady is going to have to do, all with a heavy grieving heart? You can never fully prepare yourself for death.
Again, this is a classic example of someone thinking the funeral director is replaceable. It is to bad individuals are going to have to suffer through handling their own dead before they realize that you can’t replace a funeral director.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
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